By Staff Reporter
Botswana Federation of Trade Unions (BFTU) have protested to Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa about the government’s recent blocking of peaceful anti-tax demonstrations and arrest of the country’s trade union leaders.
In a letter to President Mnangagwa, also copied and delivered to the Zimbabwean embassies in Geneva and Gaborone, BFTU secretary general Thusang Butale, condemned the excessive application of violence against the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) leaders for wanting to peacefully protest over legitimate economic concerns.
“Botswana Federation of Trade Unions is against the recet blocking of the peaceful demonstration organised by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions and subsequent arrest of leaders of ZCTU,” Butale stated. “ The peaceful demonstration of the ZCTU is against recently announced “The peaceful demonstration of the ZCTU is against the recently announced economic measures, which will increase the number of already burdened workers of Zimbabwe and their families”.
Butale noted that despite prior notification and peaceful character of this trade union activity, police violently cracked down on the ZCTU on Thursday morning to prevent the protest from proceeding.
“More than 150 police officers with trucks and water cannons surrounded ZCTU offices to stop the legitimate exercise of the constitutionally guaranteed right of peaceful protest.
ZCTU president Peter Mutasa and secretary general Japhet Moyo have been beaten up and arrested and 39 people have been arrested in Mutare, Mavsingo and Harare.
“In addition, 26 people including ZCTU staff members have been kept under siege at ZCTU offices in Harare and the police have cordoned off the ZCTU offices until 7pm. While the 26 people were released, ZCTU president and general secretary remain in custody together with 27 ZCTU members.
We deplore and strongly condemn the excessive use of violence and harassment against trade union members in retaliation for legitimate demands made as part of a peaceful protest.”
The government of Zimbabwe, BFTU states, was obliged to ensure that workers exercise their right to freedom of association in a climate that was free from violence, pressure or threats of any kind against their leaders and members.
“In targeting the ZCTU for violence and oppression, the government has not only breached article 59 of its Constitution but also the provisions of ILO Convention No 87 on Freedom of Association that it is bound by. We urgently call on your government to immediately and unconditionally release all union leaders and members and to initiate an investigation into the excessive and undue violence that took place,” Butale told President Mnangagwa. “It is our expectation that those found to be responsible for the violence will be effectively prosecuted and that the victims of violence and harassment will be provided with adequate remedies.”
BFTU, which joins regional and international Federations in strongly condemning the actions by the Zimbabwe government, has also requested to be kept informed of the action taken in response to their solidarity letter.